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Bracing For The Rape Apology

October 28, 2009

Sadly, this is probably only the first of several posts about the story of a fifteen year old who was gang-raped outside a school dance in Northern California.

I think we all know that an avalance of apologism, victim-blaming and concern trolling is coming. The only way to head that off would be to change the culture.

Since it will be practically impossible for the defendants and their defenders to deny that anything happened, I expect the most openly nasty response to be along the lines of the Haidl defense: straight-out slut baiting. (The defense said she wanted to be a porn star and therefore consented to get passed out drunk and repeatedly violated on video — some history here.) If we can’t even keep people from doing that to Polanski’s victim, who was 13, we are almost guaranteed to see it used against a fifteen year old.

We will also surely see remarks from people who don’t want to be called rape apologists, and who may even think they are not rape apologists while they gyrate wildly to turn the focus on the victim instead of the rapists and their crowd of aiders and abetters where it belongs. These people will almost always start with some version of “of course I’m not blaming the victim and what the rapists did was wrong and all that …” And then will come the key word, BUT.

Then they will make their real argument. And their real argument is that they are unwilling to actually take rape seriously or do anything to hold rapists accountable. What they believe and argue (but will avoid saying outright) is that the rapist’s behavior is unavoidable, as much a natural disaster as a hurricane or an earthquake, and so the only sensible thing is to plan for its inevitability. The argument will proceed from the dreaded BUT to focus on what SHE did, and how wrong and stupid it was, and ultimately conclude that if women just curtailed their behavior in one or several additional ways, the problem would be solved.*

There’s more wrong with this than I have time to write. There are massive, structural things wrong with this. However, I’m going to focus on the very, very concrete.

I believe in personal responsibility. I am no particular fan of alcohol. I think that teens who get drunk do incur certain risks that we should let them suffer for. They should be allowed to bear all the natural risks that a person faces when that person drinks excessively and nobody commits a criminal violation of their most basic human rights. These risks include: that they may fall and twist an ankle or a knee, tear clothes, get written on in magic marker by asshole friends [ETA: see comments], puke, wake up with a massive hangover, and get grounded by their parents. That’s what happens when you’re a fifteen year old who gets shitfaced outside the school dance. Those are the risks our sons run as well as our daughters.

Those risks should not include murder, waterboarding, or rape. Each of the latter is a criminal violation of human rights that we should not tolerate, regardless of who the victim is, nice or naughty, drunk or sober, man or woman. Because they are wrong in the big, non-situational sense. These things are not forces of nature. Tornadoes appear on their own due to climatological conditions, but rapes do not self-generate from masses of air. People commit rapes. With staggering frequency, male people commit rapes, and commit them against women.

And then, people make excuses for them. These are not independent phenomena. By making excuses, we …WE, none of us is an island, and all of us are us, including those of us that do the things that anger and shame all of us, because we all have to live in the society that we make … we grant them a social license to operate. To make apologies for is to excuse, and to excuse is to condone.

It takes one rapist to commit a rape, but it takes a village to create an environment where it happens over and over and over and over and over with such frequency that ordinary people throw up their hands and treat it as a part of the environment instead of as violations of fundamental human rights.

The rapist rapes, the apologist supports and the bystander lets it happen. Who is not part of the solution, is part of the problem

Rape apologist concern trolling in comments will be banned.

* That list. The fictitious list of “things that if women did it would stop rape -and we’re not saying it’s their fault except we are because if they didn’t do these things it would go away”. The list that never ends, and includes an infinite number of items, and that would prevent women from doing all kinds of things many of which, when men do them, are called “having fun,” “living one’s life”, and “the pursuit of happiness.”

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. Elana permalink
    October 28, 2009 9:06 pm

    You obviously haven’t come across this story.

    “She also discovered that her friends had “drunk shamed” her. Two of the teachers drew offensive drawings and sayings on her body with marker. Among other things, they drew penises on her legs and wrote names on her stomach. Some of the drawings were, according to the woman, an inch from her vulva.

    Like many degrading acts against women, the people involved took photographs. They used a digital camera and a cell phone…

    To sum up, the woman did not consent to what the other teachers did to her. She did not consent to them touching her. She did not consent to them moving her shirt and exposing her abdomen. She did not consent to them pulling up her shorts. She did not consent to them dragging markers across her exposed flesh. She did not consent to any sexual activity. She told the newspaper that there was nothing more humiliating.

    The woman also did not consent to the other teachers taking photographs.

    There is no ambiguity about the lack of consent here. She could not consent to the acts or their recording – she was passed out. “

    Drunk shaming is not a “natural risk” of getting drunk. It is an assault on the body.

  2. October 28, 2009 9:11 pm

    Well, sexualized shaming of women is a different thing, and I think has different motives. Malicious and sexualized shaming is a different thing from a mere prank among friends, I would think.

  3. Elana permalink
    October 28, 2009 9:20 pm

    The motives of the assailant aren’t the most important thing. A victim can still view it as an assault, regardless of the assailants intentions.

    When a person is unconscious, they have no way of consenting. The assailant or “prankster” has no way of knowing whether their actions will be deemed funny or cruel.

    This is reason enough to call it an assault rather than a natural consequence of being drunk.

  4. November 6, 2009 3:03 pm

    thank you.

    i havent had the words to process this news story, or to share it with others. i thought i didn’t have the words because of how horrified i was. it is that. but it is more….

    your words brought out why i can’t talk to people about this story. it’s because i am horrified by what i think people will say in response…

    the mere thought of rape apologists, in this extreme case, silences me.

    thank you for helping me to see that. because now that i recognize that silencing, i am angry. and anger will help me to speak out.


  5. December 29, 2013 6:18 pm

    Reblogged this on Beautiful Cocoon.


  1. Legal Consent, Morning-After Regret, and “Accidental” Rape - The Sexist - Washington City Paper
  2. links for 2010-03-07 « Embololalia
  3. So, How Should Colleges Actually Prevent Sexual Assault? | uocemagna
  4. In the Beginning was the Word: ‘Rape Culture’ and the Struggle to Define Its Meaning | Eliminating Sexual Violence

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